London popsmith Oliver Malcolm gets jazzy on his most far-out single so far with "Helen".

The term 'jazz' is a bit strange, at this point. It's practically synonymous with bougie, upscale class and polite society, meant for dinner parties and as inoffensive easy listening. It's a far cry from its truly revolutionary roots, born out of brothels and bar rooms, from some of the farthest fringes of the avant-garde. With over 100 years of acclimated listening, it sometimes seems impossible to reclaim the riotous, lightning-in-a-bottle energy of harmonically-adventurous, rhythmically interesting music created on the fly.

Luckily, jazz lies dormant in nearly every form of popular music in the 21st Century, especially in realms like hip-hop and electronic music, where improvisation is emphasized and a utopian egalitarianism worldview reign supreme.



On "Helen," up-and-coming indie popstar Oliver Malcolm makes this all-too-apparent with a truly adventurous flip of a particularly far-out jazz sample from bebop provocateur extraordinaire, Charles Mingus.

Given the glistening, deep dark bassline and microtonal Japanese melodies, it's truly hard to imagine that "Helen" could be based around a bebop sample, that any of its elements could have existed previously. "Helen" puts the future in future bass, for sure, sounding in line with hyperdigital pop/electronic musicians like Arca, FKA Twigs, or Fatima Al Qadiri. The fact that Malcolm can smuggle such truly subversive sound design speaks to both his potential as a rising new talent and to keep an eye on as well as jazz's ability to evolve and adapt to match any environment. It truly is the Xenomorph  of musical genres and, usually, improves all it touches with its imagination, its insistent rhythms, and the sheer sense of unpredictability and surprise it often engenders.

So, let "Helen" remind you of what jazz is, and is capable of, with its speaking-in-tongue scat singing and ripped apart beats. Or, if you're new to the genre, let it prove to you,  beyond a shadow of a doubt, that jazz will never die. Oliver Malcolm is truly doing the lords of rhythm a favor, with this one, and We Are: The Guard thank him for it!


J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.